During Denmark’s first coaches’ meeting, head coach Terry Crowder sat down and asked the rest of his staff to write on a sheet of paper what they thought the Danes’ inaugural season record would be.
He got a varied amount of answers: 8-2. 7-3. 6-4. 5-5. There was even a 4-6.
The outlook for Forsyth County’s newest team is murky. The Danes, who are pulling mostly from South Forsyth to fill its roster, have no seniors but certainly have some older talent that can contribute well. A vast majority of the team will consist of sophomores and freshmen who have never seen a varsity snap.
With 26 starters set to return for Denmark’s second year, the future is potentially bright for a team that’s starting its existence not with a JV schedule, but a full varsity slate in Class 4A. Despite the future outlook, things could get very challenging this year.
“The old adage that’s kind of scary is, ‘For every sophomore you can play on Friday night, you can count that as a loss,’” Crowder said. “Well, I hope that’s not true because we’re going to have a bunch of sophomores out there.”
With how young Denmark is, Crowder and the coaching staff will be relying heavily on the oldest players they’ve been dealt. At the top of that list is Ze’Vian Capers, a junior wide receiver who has college offers from Clemson, South Carolina, Georgia Tech and Arkansas. His 604 yards and four touchdowns with South last season earned him first team all-county honors. On the defensive side, junior Nick Carozza will be a key leader at linebacker.
“We’ve probably got five or six guys that are as good as anybody I’ve been around — five or six guys that would have started on our state championship team at Chattahoochee,” Crowder said. “That’s a great foundation.”
Crowder says that his core of juniors will play both ways, with each one getting rest on the side of the ball opposite of their primary position. That strategy will be paramount with the quality of competition the Danes are set to face from the get-go. Region 7-4A consists of Blessed Trinity and Marist, the state champions and runners-up from last season and the clear favorites to win the region.
Junior Ben Whitlock will take the reins of the offense as the first starting quarterback in Denmark history. He already has some past experience with his receivers, which the Danes hope will translate to success in the spread attack they’ll be running.
“We’ve known each other since the eighth grade and ever since then, we’ve always had a chemistry,” Capers said of Whitlock. “Since the summer has started with 7-on-7s, our chemistry has gotten a lot better. He knows how to put the ball in the right spot. His arm has gotten stronger. He’s getting more mobile, he’s getting more athletic, his footwork has gotten better. We are all confident in what Ben is going to do on Fridays.”
While the focus will mostly be on the upperclassmen to lead the charge, there are still some sophomores in the mix that could contribute. Crowder says that in order for the Danes to compete, that group will have to play at a level beyond their years. Zach Burchfield and his 6-foot-2 frame will be a key player at linebacker alongside Carozza. At running back, Devin duCille has been turning some heads as he’s gotten his first real workload.
“He has grown tremendously,” Capers said. “I didn’t think he would be as good as he is now.”
Crowder has amassed a 91-62 record as a head coach. He’s coached all of his teams in the same way, and it’s the way he plans to lead the Danes, regardless of their circumstances.
“My thing was, ‘Who do you expect to beat us?’” Crowder said. “I’m going to coach to win a state championship this year. If you don’t think about it, if you don’t talk about it, it ain’t ever going to happen.”